Home » FSS ACT » How effective are diet food, dietary supplements?

How effective are diet food, dietary supplements?

VISAKHAPATNAM: Targeting calorie-conscious citizens, various companies have flooded the market with products ranging from sugar-free sweets to oil-free alu-bhajjis, diet cold drinks, dietary supplements, slim tea and fruit juices. However, doctors and dieticians caution that all that glitters is not gold. According to them, those willing to take a short cut to weight loss don’t even bother to find out how effective these products are or how authentic their claims might be.
Sounding a cautionary note, experts say all the slimming supplements and substitutes may not be suitable for everyone and may not yield desired results for a weight-loss programme unless supported with a regular workout regimen and balanced diet.
Dr Kutikuppala Surya Rao, a noted Padmashree awardee general physician from the city, said, “More often than not, the claims made by these products are a marketing gimmick. It’s very important to check the ingredients, nutritional value and their percentage printed on the cover or packet. The problem with many of these products is that there’s no scientific study done on them to substantiate their claims with data. Some don’t even reveal the detailed formula or ingredients and amount used. And all potato chips do use some kind of oil while diet soft drinks are also not as healthy as people mistake them to be. However, if diabetic sweets or sugar-free sweets use artificial sweeteners instead of refined sugar or glucose, then it’s a better option.”
Diabetologist and head of the department of endocrinology at King George Hospital (KGH) Dr KAV Subrahmanyam rated diet food and nutrition supplements above junk food but said these foods can’t be certified from the health point of view with surety as many of their labels often don’t elaborate on the exact quantity of ingredients used or whether these have the right nutritional balance. “Also, there are several herbal weight loss products and drinks that have not been scientifically evaluated. For general public, their results may vary from person to person but we may not advice them for diabetic patients. Even if diabetics take sweets and drinks with artificial sweeteners, a stipulated amount of these should be consumed to prevent any adverse health impacts,” added the doctor.
Coming to dietary supplements, dietician R Anusri, working at a city based-fitness centre, averred, “One should remember to use these as supplements and as not substitutes for regular meals. These can thus help in cutting down on the quantity of meal by reducing cravings or appetite or can be consumed instead of junk food to aid weight-loss. However, there are certain herbal products such as high protein and fibre bars or protein-vitamin drink which can be taken as substitute for meals as prescribed by doctors and nutritionists. But it should be remembered that despite claims of ‘no added sugar’ many of the chocolate-flavour products or fruit juice do contain some amount of sugar. The efficacy of slimming Ayurveda capsules has also not been scientifically proven. Therefore, those trying to lose weight should opt for fresh fruits and vegetables as well as high fibre, low-carb eatables such as oats and dal items rather than depending only on costly food supplements.”
“Moreover, there are contraindications for such dietary supplements as well. Diabetic and gastric patients and pregnant women should not start consuming the supplements on their own unless recommended by doctors. Too much of protein concentration on the body can lead to nutritional imbalance or depending on the body type some people may suffer from allergies if a particular supplement doesn’t suit them,” added the dietician.
As per the Food Safety and Standards Act of India (FSSAI), a dietary supplement is defined as a product taken by mouth that contains a dietary ingredient and / or a new dietary ingredient intended to supplement the diet. The dietary ingredients in these products may include: vitamins, minerals herbs or other botanicals, amino acids and substances such as enzymes, organ tissues, glandular and metabolites.
These are foods, which are specially processed or formulated to satisfy particular dietary requirements, which exist because of a particular physical or physiological condition or specific diseases and disorders. The composition of these foodstuffs must differ significantly from the composition of ordinary foods of comparable nature, and may contain one or more of the following ingredients, namely – plants or botanicals or their parts in the form of powder, concentrate or extract in water, ethyl alcohol or hydro alcoholic extract, single or in combination; minerals or vitamins or proteins or metals or their compounds or amino acids (in amounts not exceeding the Recommended Daily Allowance for Indians) or enzymes (within permissible limits); substances from animal origin and a dietary substance for use by human beings to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake. Such foods should not have any hormones, steroids or psychotropic ingredients added to them as per Prevention of Food Adulteration Act.

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